By Rob K12
A hurricane, also known as a “tropical cyclone” or “typhoon,” is a severe, rotating tropical storm that produces heavy rains and cyclonic winds exceeding 75 miles (119 km) per hour. Hurricanes originate in the tropical parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, mostly between August and October, and they move generally northward. They lose force when they cross over land or colder ocean waters. Hurricanes are catastrophic events that have caused thousands of fatalities and millions of dollars of damage. Preparation is essential – it is the key element to surviving a hurricane safely. View our Hurricane Checklist.
Early Warning & Preps
Start your preparation before hurricane season begins by assembling a home emergency kit, a family communication plan, and an evacuation plan. When a hurricane does come, there is usually plenty of warning from weather professionals on its progress. Monitor the weather channels and listen to weather reports while you begin to prepare your home.
Your home emergency kit needs to cover the priorities of survival, including any specific personal and family needs. Children, the elderly, and pets will require additional attention. Stock up on nonperishable foods such as canned goods, dry foods, and emergency freeze-dried food rations. Water is essential and you should fill your bathtubs and all empty containers with water when a hurricane is imminent. Have a means to purify water that you collect from natural water sources.
There are many ways to purify water for drinking. Bringing a pot of water to a rolling boil for 5 minutes will kill all living waterborne pathogens and provide you with drinkable water.
Household bleach is another means for water purification. Add 2-4 drops of unscented bleach to a quart of water, shake it, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then loosen the cap and turn it upside down to let water trickle down to disinfect the threads of the cap. Then turn it upright and let it sit for about 30–45 minutes. The water should smell like bleach. If it doesn’t, then repeat the process.
Water purification tablets, and a good-quality water filter are important items to have because you can take them with you in case you have to evacuate your home.
Lighting, Radio & Repairs
Your kit should also include light sources such as flashlights with spare batteries and bulbs, lanterns, and candles. Include a battery operated or hand-cranked radio to monitor both local emergency stations and the federal National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) network. Plastic sheeting, tarps, and high-strength tape are also needed items to use as a quick repair kit for leaks and broken windows. Lastly, add some items for entertainment such as playing cards, board games, and books to help pass the time.
Fortify Your Home
Protect your home by covering the windows with plywood and securing anything outside that cannot be brought into the house. Outside furniture, umbrellas, toys - anything that could potentially become a projectile in the winds of the hurricane – all need to be brought inside the house. It’s a good idea to stage filled sandbags in a convenient location. Sandbags can be used to build water retention walls to prevent water from damaging your property.
The ideal safe place to be for a hurricane is underground, in a storm cellar or a basement stocked with emergency supplies. If that’s not an option, find a room on the lowest level of your home with no windows. If you are living in a mobile home or trailer, you have to move to a secure structure. Many communities have established Emergency Action Plans (EAP) for an emergency crisis. Become familiar with your local EAP, communication plans, and storm shelter locations.
In any emergency situation, your first choice should be to stay home or “bug in.” However, you may be required to leave your home and “bug out.” If that is the case, you need to have an evacuation plan – and a bag already packed. A “bug out bag” is a bag that is pre-packed and pre-staged in the event you have to leave your home and move to a safer location. Ideally, your bug out bag should be a smaller, lighter, travel-size version of your home kit.
After the hurricane has passed, continue to monitor the emergency stations on your crank/battery operated radio. Be prepared for lots of rain and possible flooding. If there is significant damage to your home, shut off the main power and gas lines. If you smell gas or suspect a gas leak, use flashlights and battery operated lanterns to light your house. Avoid using candles or anything that makes a spark. Wear protective clothing, gloves, and sturdy shoes.
As with any disaster situation, preparation is essential to your safety and survival in a hurricane. Have a plan, rehearse that plan, stay informed, and ride out the storm.
Rob K12 is the owner and chief instructor at K12 Survival Solutions. He is a 20-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and has extensive experience all over the world. He is a graduate of the “C” level SERE school and earned his Wilderness First Aid certification from the Wilderness Medical Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School.